I don’t typically enjoy the spooky side of entertainment. I scare easily and I cry a lot, which isn’t the best combination when it comes to games with even the slightest horror bent. So, when I first watched the trailers for Ghostwire: Tokyo, I was sure I could put it in my “probably too creepy, don’t worry about it” basket. After checking out a hands-off preview of the game, I am delighted to report that it instead belongs in my “creepy in the cool way that excites me” basket (yes, I have one).
Ghostwire: Tokyo revolves around Akito, a man somehow left alive after the population of Tokyo vanishes in an instant at the hands of a mysterious occultist. Now, the streets are overrun with terrifying supernatural forces and, as Akito, you must unravel the truth and attempt to save your family. Luckily, Akito is not alone. He is fused with the spirit of a ghost hunter named KK, who can use his prowess of the arcane to help exorcise the horrors now inhabiting the world.
The gameplay we were shown takes place early in the game, as KK begins teaching Akito how to harness the ghost hunting powers. I can’t stop thinking about how much I enjoyed the dynamic between Akito and KK. Despite the preview using Japanese dialogue with English subtitles, the tension between the pair was clear, with KK acting as a reluctant mentor. A normal guy stuck with a knowledgeable voice inside his head is nothing new, but it added a playfulness to their discussions that made the peopleless streets of Tokyo feel a little more full.
Speaking of the environments, I was captivated by the sheer amount of detail in the setting. Ghostwire: Tokyo features a bustling city that now stands empty of life could easily feel, well, empty. Sure, there are scary creatures dotted about, but this lifeless Tokyo portrays a sense of busyness and intrigue through its disheveled stalls and motionless cars. Visually, it is an absolute feast of neon lights set against a gloomy night sky and I cannot wait to explore every single part of it.
As for the faceless, umbrella-wielding enemies wandering the world, I was struck by how slow they were. They move at a sluggish pace and pause a moment on seeing you, taking their time to walk towards the camera before speeding up as they get closer. The design helped create an unsettling atmosphere, adding to the tone set by the surrounding environment.
There’s one last thing I have to mention about the setting: the cats that act as shopkeepers. Yes, you read that right, the shopkeepers of this occultist-run Tokyo are cats. But these are no ordinary felines; these little rascals float behind the counters of convenience stores. The silliness of seeing an unamused chonky cat hovering in the air was simply joyous and created a much needed sense of whimsy in the otherwise abandoned city.
When I think back to the Ghostwire: Tokyo preview, those are the things that stand out to me the most: a spectacular sense of worldbuilding and a fascinating central character dynamic. As for the gameplay, it is really hard to tell how I feel without having the controller in my hands. The gameplay looked like it followed a somewhat linear path, but contained hints of an open world structure, like fighting to reclaim multiple shrines to cleanse an area and unlock the ability to fast travel to it. The small glimpse we saw of the map also featured many unique icons, suggesting a lot of side content, though we’ll have to wait until we can play it to see just how much there really is.
Although a few familiar gameplay mechanics were showcased, there were many moments that stood out. Certain rooftops can be accessed and are easily noticeable thanks to the flying spirits called Tengu that patrol nearby skies. The Tengu are also used to grapple up to these locations, with KK assisting to ensure you float down safely.
We were also shown a section where Akito needed to search a building within a time limit and destroy a sequence of objects that were preventing him from leaving. As he explored, opening doors would shift the perspective of the world, making for a surreal encounter that broke up the general flow of the gameplay in a good way.
Last but not least to note is the combat. Stealth is, of course, a welcome option as it makes quick work of unsuspecting spirits. But for those of us who prefer a guns-blazing approach, the magic wielded by Akito looks like a mystic dance of hand gestures that tears demons apart from the inside out. These powers appear to have a fair amount of range and potential upgrade capacity, given we got a very brief look at a skill tree during the preview. What this high tier gameplay will look or feel like is still as mysterious as the magic itself. Regardless, I was entranced by the magical act of combat and can’t wait to rip those oh-so-spooky creatures apart myself so I don’t have nightmares about them.
Overall, after seeing the world in action, I want more of it. From the immense detail to the cool-looking combat and of course, those delightful cats, this is a game that, despite feeling familiar in some ways, seems unforgettable in others. Only time will tell if these assumptions hold true, but we’ll only know for sure when we get to explore Ghostwire: Tokyo for ourselves when it launches worldwide on March 25 on PC and PlayStation 5.